The Next Generation

As folklorists, the wife and I are fairly immersed in story. So when the boy was young and started asking for stories, we were all over it, being able to run through much of Grimm and - using Propp's morphology y'all - simply making up new ones on the spot.

Then the demand was that the stories feature Mario. Easy enough: Mario and the Beanstalk; Mario and the Three Bears; Mario and Luigi in The Wise and The Foolish; a version of Bluebeard with Bowser and Princess Peach (not a good idea). Voila.

Then they had to be Minecraft. Then they had to be Minecraft / Mario crossovers. We were required to produce fan fiction on the spot for shit we did not like. When we went outside of the established canon we were called on it: imagine spending an evening cuddled up to your loudest internet troll. This also happened each and every time we were in the car. 

Wife and I revolted: I by going back to reading, but she by telling stories from her childhood, mainly "funny stories" (his name for the genre). She is a rustic, and has about eighty stories concerning her catching tadpoles, each with hilarious denouements. I tried as well, but my only funny story concerns not knowing that a malamute is a dog and not a kind of koala, and my friend Charles calling me on it (citing Robert Service: what renaissance men we were). It is a "kinda had to be there" thing.

But wait: I know lots of "funny stories." It's what makes me that sweet lettuce, knowing all sorts of them, or at least able to talk about them good. <insert book plug here: ed.>

So today the experiment began. In the car, sync up the iPhone, peck through "Comedy," select artist, and find a track about the length of time it takes to get to school. He's not ready for Patton Oswalt. I don't have any Brian Regan on the phone. Let's save Bill Cosby for another day, right now. Jim Gaffigan. 

The boy is nihilistic enough to understand the stance of fear and laziness that Gaffigan employs (and, whenever we play with his stuffed toys, I always voice my guy as a reluctant participant who questions whether rescuing the princess is even worth bothering with). The thought of being eaten by bears didn't phase him. Even when he didn't get the jokes he knew that something was funny because of the audience's laughter (a point I had raised with him yesterday when we first discussed doing this): so when he listens again he will try and figure it out.

Listening again is key: as I write in A Vulgar Art:

So too is it with stand-up comedy: on its first listening, we react with surprise at the appropriate incongruity. “Getting it” is the more or less spontaneous act of retroactively reinterpreting the narrative now that we can grasp it as a whole, discerning the process by which the conclusion was inevitable yet obscured. On subsequent listenings, our reaction is more one of delight, as we retrace (in real time, as it were) that same process. In this manner, what the fan listener is doing is, to some extent, what the professional comedian is doing when listening to canonical recordings: it is an appreciation of technique.
— 213-214

He will want to figure it out, and with time he will, asking what particular words mean or who is being referenced (is it ever too young to learn about Jeffrey Dahmer?). But the opening salvo of warping the next generation's mind has been fired.